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Why BBC’s documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ is not a usual case of artistic freedom

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By Ishan Kukerti

The ghost of 2012 Delhi Gang rape is here to haunt the nation again, making people cringe and boil with a sense of angst at the same time.

The government’s decision to put a restrain on the documentary is hardly a surprise but not totally unjustified. The state has played its part, and done that pretty fine. Although the case is pending in Supreme Court, out of the six accused, four are on a death row, one has committed suicide and one is in juvenile prison. For the government, the film is giving fuel to a fire and it has put it out the best way it could, within its capability.

The Justice Verma Report and the subsequent Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance 2013 are proof that the problem lies not with the state but the society. When a red faced Rajnath Singh says that the government is going to take action against BBC, then he is talking more as a member of a shamed society whose shortcomings are being rubbed into the face, than a statesman who is on a banning binge.

Freedom of speech, really?

This is not a usual case of freedom of speech or artistic freedom. Rape is a very sensitive issue and can’t be dealt like any other issue under the umbrella term, Freedom of Speech. The point is, will the film bring a change, serve a purpose?

There have been a lot of documentaries and films about the increasing rape culture in India along with other pressing issues relating to women in the past which have come and gone without occupying any substantial space in the media or people`s thought processes. None has resulted in the decline of rape cases or even the initiation of a dialogue at the ground level. Sex is still a taboo in India and what is required is a need to start a dialogue, free and meaningful.

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The Big Sister calls

The buzz created around India`s Daughter is majorly because it’s a BBC production and can be considered as a third person`s perspective. But has Leslee Udwin done justice to the subject of a universal social evil, by narrowing down her study on a specific yet in no way insignificant atrocity? Could her inquiry into the matter, as an international commentator been more holistic if she had taken a broader worldwide view, included the tussle between genders and an underlying primordial animal behavior in such cases, be it in Steubenville or France?  The documentary seems to be looking for a black cat in a room with lights turned off.  Or just saying that there is a black cat in the room.

According to a BBC survey, 230 women are raped in UK everyday and less than 1 in a 100 people gets convicted for the same. Yet Leslee Udwin`s decision to give voice to her sisters, so territorially and culturally removed from her seems weird, almost resembling a white burden of some sort. Maybe the brutality of the rape had attracted her imagination, which is well explored in the film. But isn’t this falling into the downward spiral of sensationalism in Journalism? Choosing an event more shocking than others ( yet in no way the most shocking, she could have found even more pathetic realities here or elsewhere) based on its content quality?

 

Solution, precipitate or nothing at all?   

But the BBC television director Danny Cohen has said that the film, ‘ Has a strong public interest of crating awareness about a global problem.’ and the inductive logic of the documentary gives some strong causes to rape as a phenomenon, like changing economy, patriarchy and social deprivation, but the solutions it brings to the discussion are quite generic and not unprecedented ‘ should bes’

like education and changing people`s mindset. More than a critical inquiry into an ignominious social evil, the film is a multi-narrative of the blood curding incident on December 16, 2012, which certainly makes the head hang but doesn’t bring anything concrete to the table. Shame has never deterred a criminal from a crime nor has repetition changed perceptions. The interview with one of the main accused in the case is proof enough how difficult it is to change someone`s view point. However the film has undoubtedly reinforced viewer`s opinion by giving it an authoritative BBC kind of voice.

Postscript

Will the Indian society or the world at large learn anything from the heart rendering reality of Nirbhaya? Will it make those who need to introspect, wait for a moment in their lives and think again?

The documentary is a definite reminder, a shocker, that the world has yet not forgotten about Nirbahya, even though most people have moved on to other issues, to different pandals at Jantar Mantar. In the end the relevance of the film can only be established on the basis of weather it incites frustration or leads to a constructive dialogue in the society.

  • The documentary raises some very relevant questions undoubtedly, however, it probably failed to delve deeper about the malice called rape and sought to play to certain stereotypes( uneducated and poor men rape etc). If this documentary can raise awareness and expedite punishment of the rapists in question, its somewhat achieved what it set out to do.

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  • The documentary raises some very relevant questions undoubtedly, however, it probably failed to delve deeper about the malice called rape and sought to play to certain stereotypes( uneducated and poor men rape etc). If this documentary can raise awareness and expedite punishment of the rapists in question, its somewhat achieved what it set out to do.

Next Story

U.S. President Donald Trump Interviews Indian American Judge Under Consideration

However, other factors such as immigration, the powers of the president and any possible litigation involving the 2016 election of Trump and the alleged Russian interference are at play.

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Donald Trump
Earlier on Monday, Trump appointed his Deputy Principal Press Secretary Raj Shah to a key role in the difficult process of getting his nominee for the Supreme Court approved by the Senate. VOA

Indian American federal appeals court judge Amul Thapar has emerged as a “serious” contender for a spot in the US Supreme court and has been interviewed for the position by President Donald Trump, according media reports.

He was one of four judges interviewed for the position on the nation’s highest court by Trump on Monday, according to The Washington Post and other media outlets that quoted unnamed sources who had been briefed about the meetings.

Trump’s Spokesperson Sarah Sanders confirmed that he met for 45 minutes with four candidates, but would not identify them.

Trump has said he would announce his pick next Monday.

Thapar was appointed by Trump last year to the federal Sixth Circuit Appeals Court based in Cincinnati, Ohio, that covers four states including his home state of Kentucky.

Considered a conservative, Thapar, 49, had served as a federal prosecutor before President George W. Bush appointed him a judge of the federal court for Eastern Kentucky by in 2007.

Thapar has the backing of Mitch McConnell, the influential Senate Majority Leader from Kentucky, for the Supreme Court vacancy caused by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy last month.

“I think he’s absolutely brilliant, with the right temperament,” McConnell said on Saturday.

The Washington Post said Trump’s meeting with Thapar “was described by several White House aides as both a gesture of respect for the Senate GOP leader and evidence that he is in serious contention”.

He is the second Indian-American judge to be a leading contender for the Supreme Court showing the community’s reach across both parties and its influence.

Washington Appeals Court Judge Sri Srinivasan was among the top choices considered by then President Barack Obama for the Supreme Court in 2016.

Obama ultimately picked Merrick Garland but McConnell blocked the nomination refusing to take it up for Senate’s consideration citing the presidential election coming up later that year.

Earlier on Monday, Trump appointed his Deputy Principal Press Secretary Raj Shah to a key role in the difficult process of getting his nominee for the Supreme Court approved by the Senate.

“Raj Shah will oversee communications, strategy and messaging coordination with Capitol Hill allies,” Sanders said in a statement.

Legalised abortion that many countries like India take for granted is looming over the selection of the next Supreme Court judge, with many Senators making it the litmus test to vote for or against a nominee.

It is likely that a case involving abortions may come up before the Supreme Court leaving open the possibility a conservative majority bench could overturn its 1973 ruling legalising it.

During his election campaign Trump changed his stance and came out as an opponent of abortions and said that he would appoint judges with the same view.

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Raj Thapar told the newspaper that his son’s only dream was to become a Supreme Court Justice. Pixabay

But he said last week that he would not discuss with candidates their views on abortion.

The Republicans have slender two-vote lead in the 100-member Senate and at least one Senator from the party, Susan Collins, has said that keeping abortions legal would be a requirement for supporting the Trump nominee and another, Lisa Murkowski, has previously opposed efforts to overturn the 1973 ruling.

The 49 Democrats and the two independents are all expected to oppose any Trump nominee and Shah will have to work with Republicans in Congress to get a majority backing for the candidate.

However, other factors such as immigration, the powers of the president and any possible litigation involving the 2016 election of Trump and the alleged Russian interference are at play.

Thapar is widely considered to conservative in his approach, which aligns him with Trump and his base.

His father, Raj Thapar, told Courier Journal that his son is so conservative that he “nearly wouldn’t speak to me after I voted for Barack Obama.”

Thapar was born in Detroit and his family wanted him to become a doctor, but he chose law instead, the newspaper said.

Raj Thapar told the newspaper that his son’s only dream was to become a Supreme Court Justice.

Amul’s maternal grandfather had impressed on him how Mahatma Gandhi had defeated the British using non violence, Raj Thapar told the newspaper.

According his father, Amul had converted to Catholicism when he married Kim Schulte, a real estate agent, Courier Journal reported.

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During his election campaign Trump changed his stance and came out as an opponent of abortions and said that he would appoint judges with the same view. Pixabay

Thapar’s mother Veena Bhalla sold a successful restaurant after 9/11 to work as a civilian clinical social worker to help soldiers returning from the battlefield, the newspaper reported quoting McConnell.

Also Read: Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi Urges Indians To Report To Any Instance of Salary Delay

According to Thapar’s bio for a convention of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association his father had come to the US to study and after graduating went to work for Ford Motor Company.

Later, he bought a share of a heating and air conditioning company. (IANS)